August 26, 2015 4:27 pm
Updated: August 26, 2015 8:26 pm

WDBJ live TV shootings add to growing U.S. gun violence death toll


WARNING: This story and above video contains images and details that may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised.

The brazen murder of two journalists live on air Wednesday morning is prompting renewed calls for arms control in the United States, with the state’s governor joining other prominent politicians in demanding action on gun violence in the U.S.

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WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, were shot at close range and the suspect has been named as a “disgruntled” former colleague — 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan II, who went by Bryce Williams on-air.

In an interview with local WTOP radio in the hours following the shooting, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said “there are too many guns in the hands of people who should not have guns.

READ MORE: Suspect in deadly shooting of 2 journalists dies after shooting self

“We’ve got to come together. There is too much gun violence in the United States of America,” said McAuliffe during a regular Ask the Governor call in show.

The White House also chimed in, urging Congress to take some “common sense” steps to combat gun violence in a country that has the highest gun ownership rate on the planet.

WARNING: This story and above video contains images and details that may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised.

“This is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities, large and small, all across the United States,” said White House spokesperson Josh Earnest.

The shooting of Parker and Ward, along with their interview subject for the live TV segment at Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, appears to have been targeted and in retaliation for grievances with the station and the two journalists.

WATCH: How premeditated was the WDBJ7 shooting?

But the triple-shooting comes after a University of Alabama criminologist presented research that concluded the U.S. has had far more mass shootings than most countries in the world over nearly five decades.

“[I]n recent years, perhaps no form of violence is seen as more uniquely American than public mass shootings,” wrote Adam Lankford in his study Mass Shooters, Firearms, and Social Strains: A Global Analysis of an Exceptionally American Problem.

WARNING: This story and above video contains images and details that may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised.

READ MORE: ‘Our hearts are broken’: Tributes pour in for journalists killed during live report

Of 291 recorded public mass shootings between 1966 and 2012, 90 (31 per cent) occurred in the U.S, Lankford detailed in his study.

Russia, France, the Philippines and Yemen combined had fewer mass shootings during the same period. By comparison, the Philippines had 18, Russia 15, Yemen 11 and France 10.

That said, the death toll from America’s mass shootings was lower, according to Lankford’s findings: there was an average of 6.9 deaths per incident compared to an 8.8 average number of deaths in the other 170 countries he included in his examination.

Lankford’s study examined shootings that resulted in at least four deaths. But another survey, the crowdsourced Mass Shooting Tracker has logged all shootings with “four or more people shot in one event” — including both fatalities and the wounded. The log also includes mass shootings that aren’t public, such as the “execution style” murders of two adults and six children in a home outside Houston, Texas on Aug. 8.

The Moneta shooting is included in that list: it resulted in two fatalities, one injury to an innocent target and the self-inflicted death of the gunman.

Suspected gunman in deadly shooting of reporter and cameraman dies of self-inflicted gun wound

The number of mass shootings in the U.S is far higher than what Lankford logged. In 2015 alone, Mass Shooting Tracker counted 246 mass shootings. And by its overall count, there have been 864 mass shootings and 1,125 deaths since the 2012 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were gunned down.

Lankford’s study went further to link the epidemic of mass shootings to gun ownership among other factors.

“The United States, Yemen, Switzerland, Finland, and Serbia are ranked as the Top 5 countries in firearms owned per capita, according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, and my study found that all five are ranked in the Top 15 countries in public mass shooters per capita,” Lankford said in a statement on the release of his findings.

“My study provides empirical evidence, based on my quantitative assessment of 171 countries, that a nation’s civilian firearm ownership rate is the strongest predictor of its number of public mass shooters,” Lankford said in the statement. “Until now, everyone was simply speculating about the relationship between firearms and public mass shootings. My study provides empirical evidence of a positive association between the two.”

READ MORE: What we know about Alison Parker and Adam Ward, the two journalists killed in Virginia

The 2007 Small Arms Survey he referenced revealed that of the 644 million civilian-owned guns in 178 countries, 42 per cent are in the United States, Vox reported.

But, a survey released in March found gun ownership in the U.S. is down compared to the 1970 and 1980s. Thirty-one per cent of American households in 2010 had a firearm, which dropped from a 1977 high point of 50.4 per cent of households, according to the General Social Survey out of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

NORC attributed that significant drop in household gun ownership to the decline of hunting in the United States.

Personal gun ownership in 2014 was around 22 per cent, which is 8 per cent lower than in 1985, when it was at its highest in the 40-year period examined, but up from the 2010 low point of 20.6 per cent.

Still, there are nearly as many firearm-related deaths in the U.S. as those caused by car crashes. According to U.S. mortality numbers from the Centre for Disease Control for 2013, there were 33,804 people who died in accidents related to motor vehicle crashes. The number of firearm-related deaths that year, including suicides and accidental shootings, was 33,636.

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